Woolworth’s stores were once upon a time a seemingly immovable feature of the British high street. Every town had one, some more than one, and every London district. Think back now to all the different branches you’ve been into in your life. I remember one in Chester with a bewildering number of entrances, a cavernous one on Oxford Street, and a fairly big one in Victoria. This Bignell picture was taken there.
For myself, I remember one near where my uncle lived in Clapham, there were two in the King’s Road. Many I’ve forgotten of course. And there was one in Kensington High Street.
Here, a little way along from corner of Old Court Place, where you now find Zara and Uniqlo, you can see a sign announcing “Woolworths New Store.” It’s 1963.
On the corner a woman stares into the window of another vacant store front, wondering what will be here next.
Within, a bit of internal modelling is occurring.
Soon, the shop fitters are at work, setting up the store, still tantalizingly empty at this point.
But not for long, obviously and this picture shows the shop up and running.
Is that a Volvo? (I’ve been corrected on car identification more than once recently so I’m prepared for motoring experts to step in at this point).
Woolworth’s were at 54-60 Kensington High Street until the mid 1980s, after which the site was sub-divided. Woolworth’s itself went on. I remember particularly associating the one at Clapham Junction with Christmas decorations and the general run-up to Christmas. But they’re all gone now, like many high street names we thought would last forever. The actual “wonder of Woolies” (their old advertising slogan) was that they lasted as long as they did.
Miscellany: Shopping archaeology
We have a few items in our collection of what librarians used to called realia (“real things”, I expect as opposed to books, which are somehow unreal.) Among those are some examples of artifacts from previous layers of history. As today’s theme was shopping, here are a few of those items related to shops on Kensington High Street. (There was once going to be a whole post on the archaeology of shopping but I couldn’t find very much.)
From Barkers, a paper bag, a plastic bag and a gift box. Let’s take a closer look at that one.
Carefully assembled by me the other day after many years of being flat and unused.
And of course, next door to Barkers:
Our friends at Biba. A selection of their stylish plastic bags, representing what they were good at, fashion, and an empty packet of soap flakes, representing the areas of retail they should have perhaps left to others.
But undeniably striking. If only we had a tin of their own brand baked beans. Unopened, obviously.
See you tomorrow.